Today we are deeply concerned over the rise of authoritarian rule that makes us choose between political mandates or our jobs. That may soon require us to use our tax money to dismember or poison babies. We are troubled about the confusion over calling gender fluidity good, and God’s commands for sexual morality evil. We wonder especially how to help our children reject the lies and embrace the truth. But things could get much worse.
They did get far worse when the communists took over Eastern Europe. And yet in Hungary there were boys and girls and teens and college students who helped to lead a revolt against the Soviets. In 1956, the height of Red terror, there were girls like 13-year old Vera Hadjok who could tell you why they resisted the overwhelming propaganda and power of the communist culture and state.
As Vera told an American writer, “In school we were taught the Russian language and Russian history and how great the Russian communist state was. But we all sat there very still and bitter inside. We despised the teachers who told us such lies. Neither Russians nor the communists in Hungary could ever make us believe the lies they told us.”
How did Vera know they were lies?
Because, explained Vera’s mother, “at night after we had put out the lights upstairs we would gather in the cellar, I would teach the children the true history of Hungary. We would discuss morality and the Catholic religion and the lessons of Cardinal Mindszenty. We never allowed the children to go to sleep until we had washed away all the evil things they might have heard that day.”
Another Hungarian father told the writer, “When we watched our children growing up there were moments of unbearable anxiety. We would see our sons come home from school…repeating communist lies. When we asked them who they loved they would say, ‘Mama, and Papa, and Brother Stalin.’ They would bring us pictures of Stalin to put in our living rooms and we would know that their teachers would ask them each day, ‘Do your parents love Comrade Stalin?’ And we would have to make believe that we did.
“And almost every night when we went to bed we would whisper, ‘Do you think they are old enough yet to know?’ You see this family had to know the exact moment at which a boy could be saved from communism and yet not too soon for fear the child might inadvertently blurt out the truth and destroy the whole family. Because if the AVO [the Hungarian KGB], suspected, they simply came around one night and took the father away. Sometimes he was never seen again.
“More whispering. More consultations. I myself…three times have participated in the first family meeting. It was almost always at night, and the parents would bring the children together and they would ask casually, ‘What did you learn in school today?’ And the child would explain how Russia and Stalin were the only things Hungary could trust in and the father would say simply, “That’s all a lie, son.’
“It was a terrifying moment. You could feel death in the room, and then usually I would speak and I would say, ‘Istvan, do you know what death is?’ and regardless of what Istvan replied, I would say, ‘And if you tell anyone about tonight, your father will die.’
“Always the children understood, and they would begin to ask questions, and pretty soon the mother would say, ‘We want to give you certain things that will help you.’ And usually it would be a part of the Bible or a poem of Petofy’s.
“But the moment always came when such a father would have to discipline such a son. Then the father would take down the strap with the certain knowledge that if the son wanted revenge on his family, he could have it…I remember when I had to discipline my son. When I was through he stood looking at me, and he knew that I was afraid. And he also knew that…more than my own life I wanted to see him to grow up to be a good man. Out of such moments our family life was built.”
“Vera’s Mom said, ‘That was a chance we had to take.”
So when the revolution against the Soviets broke out in 1956 “Without our saying a word,” Vera’s Mom said, “Vera and Johan solemnly burned their Russian books. ‘We’ll never study them again,’ the children swore.’”
Stationing himself at a small bridge between Hungary and Austria, the American writer who chronicled the bravery of the Hungarian people, novelist James Michener, interviewed many of those who escaped to freedom during the seventeen days of the revolution, until masses of Russian tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed all resistance.
Still, in his book, The Bridge at Andau, Michener shows how the lies of communism had been exposed. And while Stalin had been so confident that the worker-centered changes of his regime would win the hearts and minds of the next generation, especially since they had been heavily propagandized in government schools for over ten years, in all of Hungary there were only a few young people who remained loyal to communist Russia. When the fires of revolution spontaneously generated, hundreds of thousands young adults, teens and even children fought against their tyranny.
In the past few weeks we have seen the heavy hand of our government mandate vaccines for employees in large businesses, block refugee flights from Afghanistan with Americans on board (this is still happening), and threatening to strike the Hyde amendment from the 3.5 trillion budget bill so that our taxes would have to be spent to fund abortions.
Equally as threatening to Americans’ freedoms is our government’s support for teaching Marxist ideas about victims and oppression in our public schools. I guest lectured in a college classroom on the work of C. S. Lewis, which has very little to do with critical race theory. Yet many of the questions afterwards were asked by students trying to figure out how Lewis’s work fit into the victim vs oppressor paradigm. It is fast becoming their window on the world through which they seek to evaluate everything.
What are we prepared to do in response?
We must take the time to teach true history to our children. If they get the 1619 Project in school during the days, like the Hungarian parents, we need to wash it away at night. We need to show our children the bankruptcy of Marxism. Read books like Animal Farm and The Bridge at Andau together. Show how a Christian worldview speaks to the biggest questions of life. (I recommend Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey or my older book, Worldproofing Your Kids.) If this sounds awkward or daunting, may the dedication and sacrifice of the Hungarian parents inspire us. They made a tremendous difference in the lives of their children and the course of world events.
We need to find news sources we can trust and follow people on Facebook who speak truth. We can keep ourselves informed and write our government representatives. Give sacrificially to spread the gospel and open doors for freedom.
We need to gather our family around God’s Word and let it loose in our hearts. Asking God to use it to bind us together as a family who can stand together.
Most of all we can pray. Pray for wisdom and strength to push back against authoritarianism now. Because when it grows into tyranny it is so much more costly to confront.